bestselling hardcover books of 2009 without knowing anything else about literary America, they'd probably draw some pretty embarrassing conclusions. We love our brainless mysteries, our bodice-ripping romances, and currently, our conservative punditry. The Lost Symbol sold more than 5.5 million hardcover copies last year (a pretty staggering number, but still less than The Da Vinci Code), James Patterson (or the team of sweat shop factory writers known as James Patterson) has five books in the Top 25, and more than 2.5 million people "went rogue" with Mrs. Palin.
If you'll excuse me for a minute, as I veer across three lanes of traffic to hurriedly make an exit from the high road: Wow, are our book tastes TERRIBLE. Where is the literary fiction? After The Help at No 3, there's not even another literary book in the top 30 — and no, I don't count Nicholas Sparks (especially after this utter buffoonery) or Pat Conroy. As I've mentioned, I'm all for the occasional mind-dumber, but who the heck is reading all these James Patterson's Ghost Writer novels? Does Janet Evanovich really deserve such a loyal following? I will say, though, that I was heartened to see that John Irving's novel Last Night in Twisted River, which I thought was fantastic, did sell relatively well — more than 200,000 copies.
Regarding the nonfiction list... But, first, please don't confuse this next paragraph with any kind of political stance-taking. And PLEASE, don't comment about your passionate and beyond-reproach opinion of the health care law. There's enough of that on Facebook and the rest of the blogosphere. But isn't it interesting that whenever there's a Democrat in office, conservative authors sell very well, and vice versa? Three of the four top nonfiction bestsellers in 2009 were conservative tomes. And this CNN piece from last year explains why Ayn Rand (generally considered somewhat of a conservative hero) has experienced quite the resurgence in readership due to the recession and a Democrat in office. On the flip side: The nonfiction bestsellers lists during the Dubya years are peppered with liberal-authored books. Just a few better-known examples: Barack Obama's second book The Audacity of Hope was a bestseller in 2006 and Bill Clinton's memoir My Life topped the charts in 2004, followed closely by Jon Stewart's conservative-rankling America (The Book).
The only books on the 2009 lists (in the top 30, anyway) I read were Under the Dome and The Lost Symbol, both which I thought sucked. How about you? Which of 2009's bestsellers did you read? Any you particularly enjoyed? Loathed?
One other note, according to Entertainment Weekly's blog about the bestsellers list, 2009 is the last year that e-books will NOT be counted in the bestselling tally. I don't know about you, but I was kind of surprised that they haven't been counted all along.
(Also, in case you missed it earlier this week, I'm giving away a copy of Lorrie Moore's novel A Gate at the Stairs. Details to enter are here.)